Epic Mickey

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Back in the 8- and 16-bit eras, you could usually peg Disney-games (almost always by Virgin) as looking very nice, playing fairly well but being very easy and rather short – what was there was very polished. This has changed over the years, though, and Epic Mickey is almost the opposite as it drags on a bit too long and feels decidedly unpolished.

In theory this is a 3D platformer with the feature that you use paint and thinner to hide or show parts of the world, but this mechanic is more or less reduced to a lock-key mechanism. Specific places require a specific element in order for the player to proceed and although you can paint or thin parts of objects there never any reason to do it. The different elements also function as ways to express morality with paint being creative and helpful but thinner destructive and mischievous – the mechanics are essentially the same as any other game with moral choices, but it is mostly handled well and adds some replay value. From a platform game standpoint the mechanic is rather bland, but thematically it is handled very well – especially against the promising backstory of the old and unused Disney characters.

What brings down the game is the lack of polish, both in terms of core mechanics, level design and minor details. The game does a very poor job communicating to the player what is what, what areas are accessible and in general what is possible. It is also frustrating and unforgiving, providing plenty of instant-kill moments and areas you only have one chance of finding everything in. Epic Mickey does not allow the player to choose when to save so a bad decision stays with you, this might be a good idea in more roleplaying – oriented games but when failure is reflex-based and can usually be blamed in part on poor camera and controls it is especially irritating when you cannot try again.

The camera is probably the worst thing about Epic Mickey. Controlling it is tricky with the given button configuration, and very often it does not even respond as a lot of the viewing angles are limited. A fixed camera can work wonders if it actually shows what it is supposed to, but in Epic Mickey there is often details just outside of view and tricky jumps that require an angle you aren’t allowed to set. Now, making a smart camera model is very hard but making a simple one is relatively easy so if you cannot pull off the smart one you should go for the simple one or the game will break. Granted, making a simple third-person camera with the Wii controls is a bit more tricky than on the other consoles, but there are plenty of games that do it better than this.

It feels like Epic Mickey could have been a lot better with more intensive focus testing and a willingness to fix things that made the game frustrating, but it is unclear whether this is due to lack of time, lack of ambition from the developer or publisher or if they simply did not agree that it could be improved.

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Posted on Dec 31/10 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »